Honoring Team Barbaro

Derby winner's owners, New Bolton Center share Special Eclipse

Horse Racing

January 17, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Reporter

It remains to be seen whether Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro will win the 2006 Eclipse Award for top 3-year-old male when awards are announced Monday, but his owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, and the University of Pennsylvania's George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at New Bolton Center have already won.

The Jacksons and hospital representatives are expected to be present to accept the Special Eclipse Award for outstanding individual achievements in, or contributions to, the sport of thoroughbred racing.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association said yesterday the Jacksons and the medical school have been honored with the award for the way they handled Barbaro's care after the horse was injured in the early moments of the Preakness on May 20 at Pimlico Race Course.

"In the difficult first hours of the crisis, the Jacksons took every reasonable measure to save Barbaro's life, and demonstrated great strength and compassion as an outpouring of hope and prayers flowed into the New Bolton Center from well wishers around the world," said the official statement from the NTRA, which will present the award with the National Turf Writers Association and Daily Racing Form at the 36th annual Eclipse Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif.

"We've tried to do the right thing from the start," Roy Jackson said. "It's been a surreal journey for us since the start of 2006 with a lot of ups and downs, but it is a real highlight ... to be recognized by the industry in this fashion.

"It's not just for ourselves, but also for Barbaro. He's been the one taking us on this journey."

The Jacksons, who bred Barbaro, also are finalists for champion breeder and champion owner, and are considered favorites in the owner category.

Barbaro entered the Preakness off his 6 1/2 -length victory in the Kentucky Derby as the favorite and was being projected as a genuine threat to win the Triple Crown, thoroughbred racing's highest achievement for 3-year-olds, a crown that has not been won since Affirmed in 1978.

But steps into the race, Barbaro took what his surgeon, Dr. Dean Richardson, would describe as "a catastrophic misstep." That evening Barbaro was taken to the New Bolton Center, and the next day Richardson and his medical team operated on multiple fractures to Barbaro's right hind leg as well as a dislocated fetlock in a daylong procedure.

The surgery required a metal rod and 23 screws to help stabilize a long pastern bone that had shattered into more than 20 pieces.

For the next six weeks, Barbaro's forward progress was steady, but during the first week of July the horse was struck with acute laminitis in his left hind foot. While Barbaro's right leg has healed, his left foot continues to be cause for concern.

Last week, he underwent two operations to remove areas "of undermined" hoof wall that cost him some of his new hoof growth, but no infection was found.

Yesterday, Richardson said Barbaro is once more out of the sling he had been using to rest his damaged hoof. Barbaro remains in the intensive care unit at the New Bolton Center,

"Barbaro's comfort improved considerably following the procedure on Saturday morning," said Richardson, referring to the removal of part of the hoof wall and the re-cutting on the hind deep digital flexor tendon that had been pulling on the coffin bone.

"He has been standing and moving around his stall well enough that sling support has not been added since. His appetite has improved and his vital signs are stable. Overall, we are pleased with his progress following the setback to his left hind foot."

Corinne Sweeney, director of the New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa., said yesterday the hospital staff is "terribly appreciative of being honored for what we think should be standard business.

"That's really how we feel," Sweeney said. "The Eclipse is the top award in the industry. We never expected to be keeping company with the best trainers, owners and jockeys in the business. To receive such a prestigious award is not something we anticipated."

Jackson used the word "remarkable" when speaking about New Bolton, which is about five miles from his Chester County, Pa., home.

"Dean Richardson has done a wonderful job in explaining Barbaro's condition to the general public in layman's terms," Jackson said. "Barbaro has brought them to the forefront, but they've been able to do remarkable things through combined research between the medical school and the vet school. They are leaders in their field."

Barbaro is an Eclipse finalist in the 3-year-old champion category with Preakness winner Bernardini and Cigar Mile winner Discreet Cat.

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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